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My Story: Transferring from a Community College to a University

By: Laura W., University of California Davis

Senior year of high school. The dreaded question: Where are you going to college? "Oh," I say, "I'm just going to the Junior College." Just. As if I'm ashamed of it. Maybe at first I was. It was junior college, after all. Anyone could go. But, two years later, I am happy with my decision, and proud that I did not let my ego deter me from making it.

My family had a huge impact on my decision. My parents had already put my two older brothers through college, and they still had my younger brother and me to go. But by the time it was our turn, money was tight, and tuition was on the rise. I had two options and two vastly different examples to follow. My oldest brother went to the junior college for two and a half years, then transferred to a state school. He graduated without debt, got into a police academy, and immediately got paid to begin his training. My second oldest brother went straight to a private college after high school. He graduated with more debt than any young adult should have, and then continued on to law school, accumulating even more.

But I knew that neither brother regretted his decision. My oldest brother did not care as much about the "typical college experience." He was happy to avoid dorm life and freshmen initiations for a part-time job and commuting to school. My second brother did care about having the normal college experience, and he made the most of it by getting involved in anything and everything that sparked his interest. They each did what was right for them. But I had to choose what was right for me: junior college first, or UC Davis right away?

Going to college is the biggest financial endeavor anyone my age faces and, sadly, few of us are equipped to handle it, or even grasp its enormity. But I knew that I did not want to rely on my parents to get through school. I did not want to take out loans that I wouldn't be able to pay off until I'm in my fifties. So I made the hard decision to sacrifice a "typical college experience" for a "junior college experience." I got a part-time job. I lived at home. I applied for and earned scholarships. I could afford to pay for my own education. The fees I had to pay for my first quarter at UC Davis were more than I had to pay total for two years at the Santa Rosa Junior College. But at SRJC, I got the same level of education. I finished all of my general education, started some of my major requirements, and got to take classes that genuinely interested me because I did not have to worry about the price tag. Here, I can only afford to take classes I need.

As tuition rates increase, more and more people choose to go to a junior college first for general education. But there are still people out there who think themselves above junior college. I never had anything against the junior college, but I never thought I would go there. Yet going to SRJC was a humbling and rewarding experience. Everyone was so grateful to be there. I had classes with people of all different ages, all different circumstances, all taking classes for different reasons. And I could afford to do it myself with the scholarships I earned and the money I made.

I have never once regretted it. I learned more than calculus and astronomy at the junior college; I learned self-dependence and money-handling skills. The experience made me wiser, humbler, and more confident in my ability to take care of myself. I would not sacrifice this for anything, especially for a "typical" college experience. Who wants to be "typical" anyway?